The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Raft Symbol Icon
If the river is a symbol for absolute freedom, then the raft, host primarily to Huck and Jim but also to the duke and king, is a symbol for a limitation one must necessarily impose on one’s freedom if one is not to be overwhelmed: peaceful coexistence. Unlike the sometimes ridiculous and hateful rules of society, the rules of the raft are simple: respect differences and support one another. The raft is a kind of model society in which one can enjoy freedom unlike in society on shore, but at the same time not drown in one’s freedom. Huck says that his happiest days are spent on the raft with Jim. It is significant that the literal destruction of the raft immediately precedes Huck’s fit of conscience as to whether or not he should turn Jim in. Such a consideration, a betrayal, even, threatens to break Huck’s friendship with Jim just as the raft is broken. Significant also is the fact that it is after Huck learns about the insane destructiveness of human conflict from the Grangerford-Shepherdson feud that Jim pops back into Huck’s life, the raft of their peaceful coexistence repaired. This is all of course symbolic for the making, breaking, and repairing of trust and good faith in people despite their differences, and speaks to the fact that it is never too late to try to mend severed relations.

The Raft Quotes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Raft. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn published in 1994.
Chapter 15 Quotes

“My heart wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’, en I didn’t k’yer no mo’ what become er me en de raf’. En when I wake up en fine you back agin’, all safe en soun’, de tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss’ yo’ foot I’s so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin ‘bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie.”

Related Characters: Jim (speaker), Huckleberry Finn
Related Symbols: The Raft
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

A fog sets in on the Mississippi River as Jim and Huck make for the Ohio, and the two are separated. When reunited, Huck plays a trick in the style of Tom Sawyer on Jim: you dreamed the fog, he says. Jim figures out Huck's trick, however, and responds with this quote.

Huck's trick demonstrates both his childish egocentricity and his racist callousness toward Jim, whom he as yet thinks incapable, perhaps, of the full range of human feeling. Jim's response proves just how ignorant Huck's attitude is. Jim loves Huck deeply – perhaps more deeply than anyone else in the world does. Jim is not selfish like Huck can be either: the raft, Jim's vessel to freedom, means less to him than Huck does. Huck's lies are often charming – and he lies just to stay in practice, as he says – but here he lies without thinking of the consequences of doing so. 

This episode draws a great deal of its power from the fact that Jim has been ripped away from his family by slaveholders. If his heart breaks at the thought of losing Huck, it must have been shattered by that loss – even though many whites at the time of the story deny that blacks are fully human and capable of heartbreak. Twain's novel, in contrast, insists on the full humanity of all of its characters, and in this way his art imitates life and serves as a rebuke to the aspects of American society that continue to believe in white superiority at the time he wrote the novel and even today.

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Chapter 19 Quotes

For what you want, above all things, on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards others.

Related Characters: Huckleberry Finn (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Raft
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

When the duke and king join Huck and Jim on the raft, they are at first sour with one another, but soon make up. This prompts Huck to reflect on what society on the raft should look like.

Huck's experiences have inevitably led him to reflect on what a good society looks like. After all, by this point in the novel, he's met with slaveowners, murderers, and mindlessly feuding families. For there to be a hope for a good life, he thinks, people need to be satisfied and kind towards one another. In other words, people need to have their basic needs for food and the like met, and they need to treat one another kindly as individuals, rather than as abstract elements in social categories. This may seem obvious to us – but if it's so obvious, why don't more people abide by it? 

The raft becomes the novel's symbol for a good society. It is in touch with nature, open to experience, and freely mobile. Jim and Huck, in turn, are the novel's vision of ideal citizens: people who are not only equals but also friends.

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The Raft Symbol Timeline in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Raft appears in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...without any lights.” Huck lands and conceals his canoe. In the darkness, he sees a raft go by the island and hears a man on the raft shout commands to someone... (full context)
Chapter 11
Growing Up Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...where he tells Jim that people are hunting them. The pair rushes to load the raft and silently paddles into the darkness of the river. (full context)
Chapter 12
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...Jackson’s Island, undiscovered by the men looking for them. At dawn, they tie up their raft on the Illinois side of the river and hide it, lying low there all day... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...“ain’t good morals.” As the men start out, Huck tells Jim to make for the raft that is lashed to the steamboat. But, when Jim does so, he discovers that the... (full context)
Chapter 13
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
In the darkness, Huck and Jim spot their unmanned raft and paddle towards it. Upon reaching it, Jim boards, and Huck tells him to signal... (full context)
Chapter 15
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...in, limiting Huck and Jim’s visibility. With Huck in the canoe and Jim in the raft, the two become separated, and Huck becomes lost. Huck hears whooping sounds, and thinking them... (full context)
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Huck then asks what the leaves and rubbish on the raft mean, along with its broken oar. Jim realizes that Huck was tricking him all along.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...they’re hunting five runaway slaves, and ask Huck if there are any people aboard his raft, and, if so, whether they’re white or black. Huck desperately wants to tell them about... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Huck feels bad and low when he returns to the raft, but reasons that he would feel just as bad had he done “right” and turned... (full context)
Chapter 18
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...to Jim, hidden on a densely vegetated piece of land. Jim tells Huck that their raft survived the steamboat crash, patched up by Jim himself, and is hidden. (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...Huck that he hugs him. Huck tells Jim to lose no time in shoving the raft off into the river so that the pair can leave the violence and danger of... (full context)
Chapter 19
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...becomes sour, but the king tells him that he should cheer up. Life on the raft is comfortable, with plenty of food and ease. The king asks for the duke’s hand,... (full context)
Chapter 20
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...goes on to say, has to travel at night, because so many people stop their raft to ask if Jim is a runaway. The duke proposes to invent a way that... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
With Jim still on the raft and the duke at the printing office, Huck and the king go to the meeting... (full context)
Chapter 23
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...show is scheduled to start, the duke tells Huck to make a run for the raft. He does so, and the duke does the same. (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Back at the raft, Huck and the duke meet up with Jim and the king, who didn’t even go... (full context)
Chapter 24
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The king, dressed in black clothes that make him look “swell and starchy,” rafts to a nearby town with Huck. As they drift in, the two run across a... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
On the raft, the boy tells the king that he resembles Mr. Wilks. The king lies and says... (full context)
Chapter 29
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...a skiff. It is the duke and king. Huck sinks to the floor of the raft and almost cries that the two con men are not yet out of his and... (full context)
Chapter 30
Freedom Theme Icon
After the duke and king board the raft, the king shakes Huck by the collar and asks if he was trying to give... (full context)
Chapter 31
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
As Huck runs to the raft, he shouts with joy to Jim that they are free. But Jim, Huck soon discovers,... (full context)
Chapter 34
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Huck suggests that he and Tom bring up the raft, steal the key to Jim’s hut, and rescue Jim in the night. Tom concedes that... (full context)
Chapter 40
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...men and dogs, the three run toward the river and at last arrive at their raft. Everybody’s glad to be safe and free, especially Tom, because he had the honor of... (full context)
Chapter 41
Freedom Theme Icon
The doctor paddles off in a canoe to the raft where Tom is, but the canoe can only carry one person, so Huck is forced... (full context)